A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Love for family, country, and above all, the bond between father and son, are major themes here. Fascism is discussed, and the horror of the holocaust is also underscored.
Positive Role Models
Guido is a doting husband and father, and uses humor to overcome the incredible obstacles that stand in his way. Characters display courage, gratitude, and perseverance.
Violence & Scariness
Threats of torture, hangings, and being murdered in gas chambers are discussed, and those who understand the Holocaust will get the gravity of these threats. Occasional bloody images are visible. Guns (rifles, pistols, machine guns) are visible; gunshots are audible. Tanks are visible. A major character dies.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some mild flirtations between Guido and Dora.
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A few words like "ass" are visible in the subtitles.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Champagne, hard liquor is visible at restaurants and social functions. Cigarette smoking is occasionally visible.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the award-winning Italian import Life Is Beautiful is set during the Holocaust, and features some very difficult themes, including war, fear, and the loss of a parent. There are clear references to the atrocities being committed, but most of the focus is on the humorous efforts of a father to shelter his son from them. Drinking (wine, champagne) is visible in social settings; references are made to drunkenness. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This magnificent film gives us a glimpse of the Holocaust, but it is really about love, and the indomitability of humanity even in the midst of inhumanity. Life Is Beautiful inspired a lot of controversy from people who said that it was an inaccurate portrayal of the Holocaust, and that it was wrong to set a comedy, even a gentle bittersweet one, in a concentration camp. But the movie is never less than respectful of the suffering during the Holocaust, and of the impossibility of any kind of real portrayal of that experience. Even Schindler's List is not a portrayal of the Holocaust. That experience is fundamentally incomprehensible. The best we can hope for from art is that it gives us glimpses.
We often see in life and in movies that people react to extreme adversity by magnifying whatever sense of control they have left -- think of Mrs. Van Dam's focus on her coat in The Diary of Anne Frank, absurd in light of the fact that they never go outside, so she has no real need for a coat, but important because somehow she has chosen the coat as a place to locate her sense of herself as not having lost everything. In Life is Beautiful, the father focuses on his special talent for creating a feeling of magic to protect his son from the worst reality of the Holocaust, the sense of utter betrayal. Very importantly, he gives his son a sense of control, by letting him think that he has made the choice to participate in the contest. And knowing that he has kept his child's faith intact gives him a sense of control, and purpose, that keeps him going.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.